Dennis Champ believes that everyone needs to find purpose in life, especially in their retirement years. For him, that purpose lies in coming up with new and innovative ideas for his retirement community and the seniors of tomorrow.
Growing up in Toronto with his mother and adopted sister, Dennis filled his days helping run the family barber shop started by his late father. Eventually, he set off to university to pursue his own dreams, where he received a degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of Toronto.
Following graduation, Dennis went to work for Union Carbide, a multi-national chemical and plastic company, taking on everything from sales and marketing, to plant management, and eventually working in the head office. After 35 years at Union Carbide, Dennis again set out on his own to start a consulting business, working with startups and small businesses.
Upon retirement, Dennis and his wife Barbara spent years traveling to many places together: Ireland, Africa, Hawaii, and the Mediterranean, to name a few. When they were home in Ontario, Dennis and Barbara enjoyed spending time with their two children and five grandchildren. Unfortunately, when Dennis’ wife passed away in 2010, he knew that he had to make a lifestyle change, no matter how difficult it may be.
Dennis decided to sell the family home and move into a condo in Aurora. Once he was living on his own, it wasn’t long before he became unsatisfied with the medical support he received at home. So, Dennis and his family agreed to start searching for the perfect retirement community.
“I walked through the doors and had a really nice tour with my son and daughter,” says Dennis. “Everything looked great – the amenities and staff, to the dining room and suites, it was all under one roof.” Dennis immediately liked what he saw and moved in right away.
After a year of living in his community, Dennis was approached about taking on a ‘Resident Innovation Ambassador’ role. His professional background, undeniable charisma and positive attitude made him the perfect fit for the job, and he gladly accepted.
“The ambassador role makes a huge difference for me,” says Dennis. “It’s nice having something to look forward to, where you’re contributing to something purposeful. I provide my resident perspective when the community is thinking about implementing an innovation or new program.”
Dennis lives a life of purpose; from his family and career to his retirement, every aspect of life is done with intention. He finds fulfillment through his Resident Innovation Ambassador role and enjoys what he does “immensely.” So much so, that Dennis has been sharing his resident experience and perspective across the country.
Recently, Dennis was part of an intergenerational think tank in Waterloo, Ontario. “We [retirement communities] have a hiring problem,” says Dennis. “That’s why students and seniors, including myself, have come together to think of ways to break down barriers between young people and their thoughts about working with older people.” Dennis has been a part of many other important projects and initiatives for the betterment of senior living, but his job is not done yet.
Right now, Dennis is working on ways to help every resident in his community find their own purpose, whether it be through volunteering, joining a club, or finding a new hobby. “People need to have a sense of accomplishment, and some might find that difficult when moving into a retirement community,” says Dennis. “Most things are taken care of for you here, from the cooking to the cleaning. Everyone deserves to have the opportunity to do something purposeful.” From his Resident Innovation Ambassador role to his five-string banjo lessons, Dennis lives this philosophy whole-heartedly.
He is also working on ways for new residents to quickly feel more comfortable. “Some individuals that decide to move into a retirement community have an interesting period dealing with the new environment they are living in,” says Dennis. “I want them to be able to have the support they need to feel at home right away.”
Dennis feels at home in his community and hopes others feel the same. “I’m much happier here than I was at my condo,” says Dennis. “For anyone thinking about living in a retirement community, you will have a great social life here, one that is very difficult to have at home, especially if you are single or no longer have your spouse.”
For Dennis, life in a retirement community brings many benefits: social interaction, great dining and amenities, assistance when needed, and most importantly, purpose.